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Russian-olive is a small tree or large multistemmed shrub that was introduced to Canada and the United States from Eurasia in the early 1900s. It was provisioned in large numbers during the last century to prairie farmers as a shelterbelt plant and remains a popular and widely available ornamental. Now invasive within some riparian ecosystems in the western United States, Russian-olive has been declared noxious in the states of Colorado and New Mexico. With traits including high shade tolerance and a symbiotic association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, Russian-olive has the potential to dominate riparian vegetation and thus radically transform riparian ecosystems. Especially alarming is its capacity to influence nutrient dynamics within aquatic food webs. Our objective is to draw attention to Russian-olive as a potential threat to riparian ecosystems within Canada, especially in the southwest, where invasion is becoming commonplace. We review what is known about its biology and about the threats it poses to native organisms and ecosystems, and we summarize management and control efforts that are currently underway. We conclude by proposing a research agenda aimed at clarifying whether and how Russian-olive poses a threat to riparian ecosystems within western Canada.
Introduced accidentally from South America, deeproot sedge is rapidly expanding in a variety of habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Of particular concern is its rapid expansion, naturalization, and formation of monocultures in Texas coastal prairie, one of the most imperiled temperate ecoregions in North America. The objective of this research was to examine how deeproot sedge responds to prescribed fire, to the herbicide imazapic, and to treatment combinations of both. Combinations of prescribed fire and imazapic treatments and imazapic-only treatments effectively reduced deeproot sedge cover and frequency. However, plots exposed to dormant season fires (with no imazapic) had greater deeproot sedge cover after burn treatments were applied, indicating that coastal prairie management using only dormant season prescribed fire will not work toward reduction or management of this exotic invasive species. Although deeproot sedge cover was often reduced in fire–imazapic treatment combinations, it was still present in treatment plots. Moreover, desirable functional plant groups (i.e., native bunchgrasses) did not respond positively to the fire–imazapic treatments, but in some instances, woody plant coverage increased. Repeated, long-term approaches using integrated and coordinated efforts with multiple treatment options will be necessary to restore community structure to desired compositional levels. Such integrated approaches should be effective in reducing deeproot sedge frequency, cover, and extent to more manageable levels throughout its introduced geographic range.
Nonnative invasive plants (NNIP) have far-reaching effects on native ecosystems worldwide. Understanding the role of generalist seed dispersers in spreading NNIP across the landscape is important to the conservation of native ecosystems and to the management of NNIP. We studied white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as a seed disperser in a mixed maritime pine (Pinus spp.) forests on Parris Island, SC, with particular interest in the dispersal of Chinese tallowtree [Triadica sebifera (L.) Small], a highly invasive tree species in the southeastern United States, which is a management concern on Parris Island, SC. We collected deer scat pellet groups along transects in two forest types: those that had recently been treated with silvicultural timber harvest (thinned) and those that have not been so treated (unthinned). Using two pellet-treatment methods, directly planting or rinsing and sorting, we determined that, out of 25 species grown under greenhouse conditions, 28% (n = 7) were nonnative, small-seeded, herbaceous species. However, T. sebifera was not identified in either of the two treatment methods. Recent forest thinning significantly affected the number of species determined in deer pellet groups (F = 8.37; df = 1; P < 0.01), with more native plant species identified in unthinned (x̄ = 25 ± 11) than in thinned (x̄ = 3 ± 10) forest stands (F = 5.33; df = 1; P = 0.02). Our results indicate that white-tailed deer are actively dispersing nonnative seeds but not those of T. sebifera or other woody NNIP.
The expansion of populations of invasive species continues to compromise the ecological and economic integrity of our natural resources. The negative effects of invasive species on native biota are widely reported. However, less is known about how the duration (i.e., age of oldest invaders) and intensity (i.e., density and percent cover) of an invasion influences native plant diversity and abundance at the microsite scale. We examined the influence of density, percent cover, and age of Amur honeysuckle (a nonnative invasive shrub), and several environmental factors on native plant taxa at 12 mixed hardwood forests in Indiana, USA. Overall, study sites with the greatest taxonomic diversity (Shannon's Diversity; H′), richness (S), percent cover, and density of native vegetation also had the lowest percent cover of Amur honeysuckle in the upper vertical stratum (1.01 to 5 m). Based on linear mixed model analyses, percent cover of Amur honeysuckle in the upper vertical stratum was consistently and negatively correlated with H′, S, total percent cover, and woody seedling density of native taxa at the microsite scale (P < 0.05). Duration of Amur honeysuckle at the microsite scale was not significant when percent cover of Amur honeysuckle in the upper vertical stratum was included in models. However, duration of Amur honeysuckle invasion was significantly correlated with dependent variables and with upper-stratum honeysuckle cover, suggesting that older Amur honeysuckle in a microsite resulted in greater light competition from above for native understory plant species. Beyond increased cover and shading, our results do not provide evidence of duration-related effects from long-term dominance of honeysuckle in our sampled mixed hardwood forest sites.
Ventenata dubia is an exotic winter annual grass that has invaded Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, improved pastures, intensively managed hay fields, and rangelands within the Intermountain Pacific Northwest (PNW). Currently, producers are attempting to develop V. dubia management strategies with little knowledge of its life history traits. We conducted several studies to characterize V. dubia life history patterns. Preliminary germination trials were completed to describe primary and secondary dormancy characteristics. Field studies were conducted to evaluate (1) seed bank persistence patterns, (2) seedling emergence patterns under V. dubia litter, and (3) seedling emergence and phenological development patterns within timothy hay, CRP, and rangeland habitats. Preliminary germination trials suggest that the after-ripening period required for loss of dormancy does not exceed 30 d and that dormancy breakdown peaks at approximately 90 d, after which germination occurs over a wide range of temperatures (9 to 29 C). A small fraction (< 1%) of the seed bank remained germinable up to 3 yr after burial at 2 cm depth in a grassland habitat. Seedling emergence and survival was significantly greater under high V. dubia litter layers (100% cover) compared with bare surface during the drier study year because of higher soil moisture levels maintained under litter. Across habitat types, mean seedling emergence (50% of total) occurred between 33 and 94 growing degree days (GDD) after soil moisture rose above the permanent wilting point in the fall. Seedling emergence periodicity varied among habitat types in relation to spring seedling emergence, ranging from 0 to 13% of total emergence per year. Phenological development differed across sites and years by up to several hundred GDDs but was closely aligned to Julian days. This collection of studies improves our understanding of V. dubia life history traits and will aid integrated weed management strategies in the Intermountain PNW.
Downy brome inhibits revegetation efforts following ecosystem disturbance. Imazapic is a commonly used herbicide for downy brome management, but more information is needed regarding effective application timing for restoration efforts. We wished to determine (1) if native species establishment exhibited a tradeoff between downy brome competition and injury from herbicide and (2) if this differed between pre- and postemergent applications of imazapic. We used a standard replacement series design and overlaid herbicide treatments. Nine weeks after planting, aboveground biomass was harvested and relative yield (RY) indices calculated. Both imazapic applications reduced downy brome biomass by 91% or more (P < 0.05). Imazapic caused drastic reductions in native biomass but less than what was caused by downy brome competition (P < 0.05). Natives were less injured by a pre- than postemergent application (P < 0.05). In situations where downy brome may impact restoration efforts, pre-emergent applications of imazapic at 70 g ai ha−1 (0.06 lb ai ac−1) may reduce downy brome with less negative impacts on newly-seeded native grasses than post-emergent applications. Ensuring sufficient proportions of native species seeds on restoration sites may reduce downy brome.
Invasion by nonnative plants may have ecosystem-wide effects, altering the decomposition rate of plant material via changes in litter quality or altered environment (abiotic conditions, associated biotic community), or both. Yet, the relative importance of these factors for decomposition rates is not clear. We studied decomposition using the leaves of related shrub species (nonnative Sorbaria sorbifolia and Rosa rugosa, native Rubus idaeus) with comparable physiognomy but different leaf characteristics and origin (alien vs. native) in patches formed by S. sorbifolia and Rubus idaeus in southwestern Finland. Decomposition of cellulose in the topsoils of the patches was also studied. Using litter bags, we found that S. sorbifolia leaf litter decomposed slowest and Rosa rugosa leaves fastest irrespective of patch type. Topsoils in S. sorbifolia patches were richer in carbon, nitrogen, and calcium than those of Rubus idaeus, but these differences did not affect decomposition rates. Very little decomposition appeared to happen during the winter but during the summer, microclimate had minor but significant effects on decomposition rates. Our results highlight the key role of litter source in the decomposition of plant material. Between-patch differences in abiotic conditions appear to play a minor role relative to litter quality.
To assess the potential invasiveness of common eucalyptus species planted for pulpwood, mulch wood or bioenergy crops, field surveys of eucalyptus seedling recruitment were conducted in north and central Florida locations within seed bearing eucalyptus stands and in the proximate plant communities where seed dispersal may occur. Plant communities included non-grazed pasture, intensively site-prepared forestland, abandoned forest road and upland mixed pine- hardwood forest. No eucalyptus seedlings were found in any of the 310 1-m2 survey plots across the two locations. Second, seed addition studies were conducted to determine the relative potential for seedling emergence and survival among Eucalyptus amplifolia, E. camaldulensis and E. grandis added into plots at two seed densities, under disturbed and nondisturbed conditions, in the understory of the eucalyptus stands and in each of the aforementioned proximate plant communities. Overall, the probability of emergence of added seed was very low (P = 0.0 to 0.0032), and seed density effects were not significant. Emergence was significantly greater in disturbed conditions compared to nondisturbed conditions for seedlings originating from natural seed rain from the eucalyptus canopy in central Florida. The amount of time that seedlings survived was greater for E. camaldulensis compared to the other species but no seedlings survived more than 13 wk. These data indicate that under specific favorable conditions, eucalyptus seedlings may establish within or proximate to planted stands, but the overall level of invasiveness demonstrated by E. amplifolia and E. grandis is low for north or central Florida. The demonstrated role of disturbance in facilitating eucalyptus seedling recruitment suggests that a stable perennial plant community (native grasses) should be established instead of bare soil buffer zones to mitigate spread.
Aminopyralid is the most commonly used herbicide for the control of yellow starthistle and other invasive thistles in annual grasslands of California. Although the effects of aminopyralid on native plant communities over a 2-yr period have been evaluated in prairies dominated by perennial species in the northern central states, similar evaluations have not been conducted in grassland communities of California, which are generally composed of a high diversity of native and nonnative annual species. In this study we monitored the effects of 53 and 123 g ae aminopyralid ha−1 on individual species cover and species richness over three growing seasons in two locations on California annual grassland. Treated plots were compared to untreated plots in randomized complete-block designs. Results were largely consistent between the two trials. In the first season after treatment, both rates of aminopyralid reduced dicot cover significantly, particularly members of the Asteraceae and Fabaceae. Treated plots also showed reduced species richness. However, these differences were less pronounced in the second season after treatment, particularly at the low rate. By the third season after treatment in both sites, there were no longer any significant effects on cover or species richness at the low herbicide rate. On California annual grasslands, winter applications of low rates of aminopyralid have been shown to give excellent control of yellow starthistle, providing long-term benefits to grassland ecosystems. Results of the current study suggest that negative impacts of aminopyralid on the desirable native forb community are transitory.